Meet The Equine Team

Vicki Wentworth, Managing Director of Agria Pet Insurance

“Horses bring me great energy. In fact, I moved house to ensure I could spend time with them every day. Nothing melts my heart more than when they trot up to the fence to say hello or whicker at you across the yard,” says Vicki, who describes herself as a “part-time, competitive amateur rider”.

Vicki’s riding career started at eight, after successfully nagging her parents for a pony – for years. Her first experience hacking the much-wanted Little Sir Echo ended when she asked the cheeky 13.2hh New Forest for trot and found herself galloping away at high speed. The pony was found, minus his young jockey, three miles away; thankfully both were unscathed. “It didn’t put me off and I have nothing but positive memories of Echo. We kept him until he died, well into his forties. In fact, I think he whetted my appetite for horses that are quirky and a bit of a challenge,” she insists.

Over the years Vicki has had a number of equine partners, including Celti a pure Clevelend Bay, who she bred herself (in an attempt to try to add stock to our only British warmblood breed which is now endangered). “For much of my time in the Army, she followed me around the country. Wherever I was posted, I would find stabling for her nearby.” When Vicki’s career brought her out of the Army and into London, keeping a horse proved impossible but she kept them in her life by going on riding holidays and religiously attending Badminton and other events. “And now I’ve qualified for Badminton Grassroots twice on my current competition horse: a Belgian warmblood called Dilano Z – or Dabz. Grassroots was a dream come true.”

According to Vicki, Dabz is super-talented but is even scared of his own shadow. “Because he’s so sharp, I have to use all my concentration when riding. This means there isn’t room for anything else in my head, which is a good thing with the demands of my job.” Vicki joined Agria as Managing Director in 2021 having worked extensively in the financial services industry. Understandably, the addition of equine insurance to the company’s animal family in 2022 felt very natural to Vicki.

“The trust horses show humans goes beyond that of any other domesticated animal, especially if you consider they are a prey species with a finely tuned flight instinct,” believes Vicki. “The whole concept of Agria’s lifetime equine insurance changes the lives of horses exponentially for the better. It will also bring huge peace of mind to our customers.”

Nick White, Head of Channel Operations

One of Nick’s roles at Agria is overseeing the team that looks after vet practices across the UK and Ireland. After spending a number of years as a national account manager, Nick started specialising in the health market 15 years ago at Denplan Limited, before moving over to the veterinary side five years later.

Nick thrives on helping businesses with challenges faced within the practice, with a particular interest in promotion and sales, dealing with the demands of clients and providing customer service excellence.

Nick’s family share their life with two Labradors, Walter and Winnie, and a flock of chickens. “I wouldn’t describe myself as a natural horseman,” says Nick, whose experience of equestrianism started with donkeys on the beach at the age of three. “Riding-wise, things haven’t really progressed much,” he admits. “However, my daughter Eva has been learning to ride for the past four years so I’m learning to understand the pressure experienced by the parents of pony-mad children!”

Alice Holborow, Equine and Partnership Manager

Working at Agria has very much been a return to Alice’s roots in a number of ways. Career-wise, she started work in the small-animal veterinary world in 2014, including a stint running her own business. However, Alice’s professional life began at Denplan, where she first crossed paths with her now-colleagues here at Agria, Janet Hughes and Nick White. “Agria feels like coming home!” she says.

Alice grew up on a farm in rural Herefordshire, and her life has always revolved around animals but horses have never ceased to be her primary passion. “They made a very early entrance into my life and, much to my father’s disappointment, have never left,” reveals Alice. “There is a rumour that, as a small child, I used to go to bed in my riding gear, boots and all, in order to be ready for a full day of equine excitement.”

She is now located in the beautiful Sherwood Forest where she lives with her two dun Connemara ponies, Rex and Bailey, who she describes as “a comedy double act, and the ponies I dreamt of owning as a child”.

According to Alice, anything that involves leaving the ground gives her the adrenalin rush she loves but says her heart lies with eventing. “I describe myself as a serious amateur: we give everything a good go, usually well rewarded!”

Alice believes Agria’s lifetime equine insurance is a “gamechanger” for horses and their owners in the UK. “Being able to talk about horses all day at work and be paid for it doesn’t feel like work,” she enthuses.

As well as Rex and Bailey, Alice lives with her two dogs: Binky and Ella.

Melissa Merridan, Equine Sales Coordinator

From a tender age, Melissa realised that she wanted a career in the equine industry. Given her impressive horse-related CV, this is obviously an ambition she’s fulfilled.

Melissa’s qualifications include a BSc in Equine Science from Hartpury College gained in 2001 and a Post-Graduate Diploma (MSc) in McTimoney Animal Manipulation from the McTimoney College of Chiropractic gained in 2006

She is also a qualified Specialist Saddle Fitter and has excellent knowledge of equestrian nutrition having worked with an equine nutrition company. Melissa ran a successful McTimoney equine and canine chiropractic practice for 17 years, developing her knowledge through experience, research and conferences, specialising in biomechanics and associated injuries.

“My passion lies within soundness and performance and the rehabilitation of the equine athlete,” she says. “My role with Agria allows me to offer support and facilitate the field sales team activities, to ensure positive customer relations, and to establish solid and long-lasting relationships with vets.” When Melissa isn’t busy in the office, she spends time with her family who “with exception of my husband all have four legs!” This includes her retired homebred horse, dogs and a cat.

Keighley Thomas, Equine Sales Specialist

Keighley lives in the beautiful Welsh countryside, surrounded by horses and an array of other animals including ferrets, chickens, ducks, pigeons, rabbits, goats and dogs – many of which are rescue animals.

With a keen amateur jockey for a father and a mother who was a head lady at a hunting yard, it was almost inevitable that horses became Keighley’s world. Her family has run a successful livery yard for over 30 years, and in the last decade has opened an additional livery business. During that time, Keighley has been central to their management and day-to-day running.

“I have worked on many yards working closely with trainers and a number of professionals, such as vets, farriers, dentists and chiropractors in order to achieve and maintain the highest standards of health, wellbeing and performance for horses,” she says.

Keighley’s equestrian career started with a Welsh Section A at the age of three and she hasn’t looked back. She won a scholarship to Hartpury College, where she was selected as part of the academy and represented the College at numerous competitions across various disciplines. She is also a Riding Club National Champion at the open level and has judged in-hand showing classes and ridden working hunting classes.

Breeding is another of Keighley’s interests, and many of her horses have gone on to enjoy success in a wide range of disciplines. “I LOVE to connect with other horse lovers, sharing the experiences and knowledge that 32 years with horses has taught me,” she enthuses. Horse welfare is a particular passion: Keighley has rescued, rehabilitated and rehomed a number of horses and ponies over the years. “It is vital that horses receive the veterinary treatment they need and deserve. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. I thrive on the satisfaction of seeing happy and healthy horses and ponies in a loving home.”

Charlotte Mackaness, Equine Marketing Consultant

Charlotte was reluctant to be photographed with her horses in case it alerted her husband to how many she owns. “I was a horse-mad little girl who always dreamt of having a pony but I had to wait until I was 24 until I got my first,” she explains. “Since then, I’ve made up for lost time! Home is the semi-retirement pad for our two oldies: Dexter and Archie. The rest of my equine gang is in the good hands of professionals.”

She describes herself as “rarely having brave pants” so leaves competing to her teenage daughter, Alice. “Preparing for and going to events together is one of my greatest pleasures, although I’m usually a wreck watching Alice jump and go cross country,” Charlotte admits.

Charlotte’s professional background is in publishing and feature-writing. Her career started as an intern at Tatler from where she went to House & Garden, Brides and finally The Field before embarking on a freelance career writing primarily for the Daily Telegraph, Horse & Hound as well as the titles where she’d been on the staff. “I feel incredibly lucky that horses make a regular appearance in my working life,” she says. “There is nothing I enjoy more than chatting to people and learning about their horses and experiences. Whether I’m interviewing a groom, ‘happy hacker’ or an Olympic medal-winning equestrian, the desire to talk about their horses and their love for them is universal.”